The term ‘heritage’ means different things to different people, and has diverse connotations even within related disciplines and discourses. Literally meaning ‘that which can be inherited’, the term is now used to refer to all forms of cultural property, including its common use within archaeology in reference to specific artefacts or sites; within ecology and conservation to refer to ecosystems and landscapes; and within anthropology, history and development studies as a synonym for local tradition and knowledge. The term tends to be seen as a positive attribute; as something that needs to be protected from unrestrained modernisation; and as a resource that can be employed to promote tourism, guide development based on ‘indigenous knowledge’, or simply act as a source of pride. However, at a time of increasing pressure to boost economic growth, Africa’s multi-faceted heritage is both a source to be tapped and a potential barrier to rapid development. What are the implications of these different assessments of the ‘worth’ of Africa’s tangible and intangible heritage? Is the Euro-American model of social, environmental and archaeological impact assessments ahead of ‘development’ sufficient mitigation for the loss of ‘heritage resources’? If so how will these assessments be organised, funded, and tailored to local needs? Should we be producing integrated, interdisciplinary ‘heritage impact assessments’, and if so how will these rank local and national economic interests alongside the diverse imperatives of individual academic disciplines? What role should local communities have in determining what gets protected, how well placed are they to make these judgements, and by which criteria? Using recent examples from across sub-Saharan Africa as case studies, this paper explores the complexities of these issues and the kind of debates they are engendering today.